(E) Croatia's coalition to replace three ministers
Second-largest governing party wants to replace three ministers Wed Feb 27,11:10 AM ET
ZAGREB, Croatia - The demand by the Social Liberals, Croatia's junior coalition partner, to replace three of its ministers is a serious problem for future government work, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said Wednesday.
The demand, announced late Tuesday, is primarily aimed at removing Goran Granic, a deputy to Racan and a key aide. "This is a grave situation for the coalition," Racan told the state-run news agency HINA, hinting that the disagreement over ministers may precipitate early elections. The five-party coalition, which took power two years ago from the nationalists of the late President Franjo Tudjman, has been in trouble for weeks, ever since Drazen Budisa returned as the leader of the Social Liberals. Budisa, a moderate nationalist who stepped down as party leader last summer to protest the government's decision to extradite two Croatian generals to the U.N. war crimes court, has demanded that his party be given a greater say in the government. Budisa contends that members of his party in the coalition have neglected their party duties and become "lackeys" of Racan's dominant Social Democrats. However, Racan has previously expressed his satisfaction with the work of the Liberals in his government. He also insisted Granic was an integral part of the coalition. "I can't deny that we have established a great rapport," Racan said of his coalition partners. Parties in the government have a right to withdraw their ministers. But if Racan disagrees, the coalition could collapse, triggering new elections. The Liberal Party holds six posts in the 21-member Cabinet. On Tuesday evening, the Liberals also demanded that Budisa become Racan's deputy. Croatian media speculated Wednesday that Racan and Budisa may eventually reach a compromise, with Budisa joining and Granic remaining in the government. None of the ruling parties really want new elections and instead seek to enhance their positions with the positive results of economic reforms they have undertaken, which will only be seen in a year. (pvs/eb/rp)
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